Alaska Governor Sarah Paulin
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin may be nationally unknown, but in her state she is nothing short of a political phenomenon.
Palin, 44, would add youth to the GOP ticket. As governor she has shown a willingness to veto some of the state’s large capital projects, no small plus for fiscal conservatives. But it’s her personal biography, which excites social conservatives, and reformist background that might most appeal to McCain.
She’s stridently anti-abortion, and recently brought to term her fifth child — who she knew would have Down syndrome. A hunter, fisher and family woman with a rapid professional rise, Palin is a natural for Republican framing.
In 2003, as ethics commissioner on the state's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, she risked her rising political star by resigning her position in protest of ethical misconduct within the state’s Republican leadership as well as then-Gov. Frank Murkowski’s acceptance of that impropriety. Though this briefly made her an outcast within the party, within a year several state Republican heavyweights were reprimanded for the conduct she’d decried.
Her reputation with the party thus redeemed, Palin defeated Murkowski in the 2006 Republican primary on the way to being elected governor.
As governor, she’s continued challenging the state’s powers that be, even winning tax increases on oil companies’ profits. Her approval rating has soared as high as 90 percent, making her one of America’s most popular governors.
Carly Fiorina has an up-by-her-own-bootstraps success story, having worked her way from a start as a young secretary straight through the glass ceiling to become Hewlett-Packard’s chief executive from 1999 to 2005. She presently serves as the chair of the organization tasked by the Republican National Committee with preparing the party’s crucial get-out-the-vote operation. It’s no symbolic post, but a crucial position for a party facing an uphill presidential contest.
Fiorina is also already close to McCain. The two of them recently sat down at his Arlington headquarters with frustrated Clinton supporters and urged them to shift their political allegiance to him. On the campaign trail and on shows like CBS News “Face the Nation,” she’s served as a ubiquitous advocate of the candidate. Privately, she has also become one of McCain’s most trusted economic advisers.
Grover Norquist, a fiscal conservative leader and longtime party organizer, touts Fiorina’s economic and executive bonafides but labeled her a “dark horse” vice presidential prospect. One Republican state party chairman said, “everybody would be very pleasantly surprised with her” before adding that “the danger is that she hasn’t been vetted” — a concern echoed by several GOP insiders.
These insiders also expressed concern that adding her to the ticket would do little to galvanize social conservatives, some of whom still view McCain with suspicion and antipathy. They also brought up her lack of foreign policy experience, and expressed concern that her reputation as “the most powerful woman in business” — as she was once called by Forbes magazine — could prove a dubious distinction at a time when economic anxiety is reaching levels unseen since the late 1970s.
Kay Bailey Hutchison
Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, the longest-tenured female Republican senator, who until recently headed the Senate Republican Conference, now serves as chairwoman of the Republican Policy Committee, two top Beltway party posts.
In Texas, where she has been comfortably reelected, one Republican strategist notes that she’s “proven she can get scores of Hispanics in a huge state surrogate.”“She’s underused as a surrogate to the party,” the strategist added.
But despite her popularity in the state and in the party and her years of experience, insiders are skeptical she’ll be selected. Like Alaska, Texas is already a solidly Republican state in presidential races. And adding Hutchison — who supports embryonic stem cell research and is relatively moderate on abortion (she is against outlawing the procedure, though she also opposes federal funding for it) — to the ticket would also alienate some social conservatives.
And then there’s the energy problem. Hutchison has long been a defender of Big Oil, which may make political sense locally but could prove a liability in a national race at a time when oil companies are enjoying record profits even as Americans pay record amounts at the pump.
But before McCain can entertain the prospect of these three heavy hitting women, he needs to address the real question: Can a woman help him get to the White House?